Best of September 2022

I read some really great romance books in September! If you saw my monthly wrap-up, you know that I held off on reading some of my most anticipated new releases (I didn’t have any time to devote to full-day binges!), so I ended up checking out a lot of new-to-me authors this month. That always yields surprising results, and this month’s were very, very good.

The audiobook of Consider Me came out this month, so I finally moved it to the top of my TBR. And I’m so glad that I did! It takes a special romance to hold my attention for a 20-hour audiobook, and Consider Me just left me wanting more from this author. I’ve been in a book hangover since reading it earlier this week, and no book has been able to pull me out of it since. That’s how much I loved it!

At the very end of August, I checked out the first book in B.K. Borison’s Lovelight Farms series, and I ended up bingeing the other two immediately afterwards. I’m still having trouble deciding which one I liked more – they were both fantastic. I think I’m leaning towards Mixed Signals, but I usually have more clarity when I look back at books while compiling my Best of the Year list. One of the two will almost definitely be making that list.

I also read the newest from J. Saman, an author who has delivered a ton of 5-star reads for me. Something about the blurb of Doctor Untouchable had me thinking the storyline had to do with a hidden pregnancy, so I was SUPER excited to discover that wasn’t the case. It far exceeded my expectations, and is easily my favorite of the series.

I checked out Torie Jean’s swoony debut, which gave me such Chloe Liese meets The Spanish Love Deception vibes – and that’s a very good thing. I loved the sweetheart of a hero, the realistic representation of the heroine’s health, and the chemistry. I’m looking forward to reading more from the author.

Rounding out the list is Julie Olivia’s newest, a low angst, playful best friend’s brother romance set at a theme park. I love how unique this series feels, and it was another easygoing installment – perfectly satisfying that light and fun craving.

If you missed my October Release Calendar, you can find it here – there are so many books to look forward to!

I’ve got my review for each of this month’s best books below – you can’t go wrong with any of these!


TOP PICKS

Loved it, loved it, LOVED it! You know things are going VERY well when the 20-hour runtime on an audiobook doesn’t faze me, and I spend time doing math to determine whether it’s physically possible for me to stay up late enough to finish before going to bed (sadly, no). I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this new-to-me author, but I’ll admit that I’m a softie for a manhoe who is smacked upside the head the moment he meets the right girl – and that is exactly what this story is all about. The hero at the heart of it undergoes SUCH a transformation from start to finish, and I absolutely adored seeing him work to earn his girl’s trust and love. The intimidating length is actually perfect in this instance, because this hero is working so hard to prove himself, persisting through stumbles and obstacles along the way. Mack does an excellent job of showcasing the growth in intimacy, the build of the relationship, and puts it to the test to make sure they got it right. There are SO MANY swoony, tender moments, which pair perfectly with the intensity of emotion and the delicious spice. It’s raw, real, and just the right kind of heart-wrenching, and I loved every single minute of it.

The story follows Carter, a hockey star with a playboy reputation that he doesn’t try to hide. No woman has ever made him want to change his ways, and he values his privacy and alone time, so casual encounters have always made the most sense. At least… until he meets Olivia. Intensely attracted to her from the moment they meet, it doesn’t take long for Carter to pursue her. But when the sassy brunette resists his advances, it makes Carter work harder – and spending time together makes him realize that he wouldn’t mind taking a chance with her. Unfortunately, Olivia is well aware of Carter’s reputation, and she can’t trust that his sudden change of heart is the kind that will last. Never did Carter think that his playboy ways would catch up to him in such a major way, and now he has to earn the trust that Olivia is so hesitant to give.

I’ve had this on my kindle for a few months, and it wasn’t until the audio version released that I decided to take the plunge. Devoting 20 hours to a book by a new-to-me author is always a little risky, but I am SO GLAD that I took the chance on this one. Playboys always seem to fall the hardest, and that is definitely the case here. I loved getting to know Carter, and seeing him be totally gone for his girl was immensely fulfilling. This balances swoony moments with drama and angst, ratcheting up the tension in all the best ways. We see Carter WORK for what he wants, and that was such a breath of fresh air. The page count was required to truly see their progression from strangers to lovers to soul mates with the strongest of bonds. And having a smitten hero is its own reward, with some incredibly heartwarming moments between them… and plenty of hot, SPICY moments as well. It’s such a journey from start to finish, and I can’t believe how engrossed I was the entire time.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3xQXGlx


This series just keeps getting better and better, swoonier and swoonier. Maybe steamier and steamier too. Zero complaints about any of that – I loved this! It’s easiest to appreciate this series to its fullest when you read it in order, so I was already so excited to dig into Caleb and Layla’s story before it even got started. In previous books, we saw this sweetheart of a hero start to fall for his girl without even realizing it. And he’s just so ADORABLE – a kind, sexy man who blushes at the sweetest moments, and whose biggest fault is that his heart is just too big. He loves with his whole self, which was incredibly heart-melting. Caleb makes the perfect partner for Layla, a woman who has never been treated the way she deserves. Together, they were such a great (clueless) couple, and their chemistry was SO good. The build in intimacy was excellent, and so was the slow burn to SIZZLE romance. I loved it!

The story follows Layla, a baker who never seems to date the right guy. She’s had to lower her expectations so much that dating almost isn’t worth it anymore. So when Layla bumps into Caleb after her latest dating disaster, the last thing she’s looking for is someone new. But seeing the cute former cop/current teacher in a different setting makes Layla see him differently, and she can’t help but feel a spark of attraction. As the two share their dating woes, Caleb reveals that he often gets ahead of himself in relationships. Their commiserating leads to an unexpected arrangement – for one month, Caleb will show Layla how she should be treated, and she’ll give him tips on his dating missteps. Neither one anticipated just how well their arrangement would go… or just how much they’d wish that they were dating for real.

I do recommend reading the series in order, because the small town/community feel gets stronger with every book. So does Borison’s writing, honestly. Each book has its own swoony feel, but this one felt the strongest to me – so many little swoony breadcrumbs sprinkled along the way, such likable characters, and plenty fan-worthy spice. Caleb is what makes this particular book over-the-top special though; he’s just such a good guy, and a true cinnamon roll with a little bite in the bedroom. Stellar book boyfriend material, the guy that everyone needs in their life. He took the swoon up a notch, so there were some magical moments – and tons of chemistry. I also love that Borison’s style allows for a low angst feel while also tackling some heavier subjects. It gives the story emotional depth without weighing it down, leading to a more fulfilling reading experience. I certainly won’t be forgetting this smile-inducing romance anytime soon.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3wVdhAq


Sometimes it takes a second chance to get things right, and the result is even sweeter because of the struggle. I’m talking about the couple in this book (which I LOVED!), but I’m also referring to my own reading experience. Back when this first released, I tried jumping into the series without reading the first book, and I was so confused that I ended up DNFing this story and setting it aside in disappointment. The time jumps at the start of In The Weeds threw me off, and I spent more time trying to figure out what was going on than I did enjoying the quiet, contemplative tone of the story. A few months later, the book was still lingering in my brain, so I decided to start the series in the intended order… and things went SO much better the second time around. In the first book (Lovelight Farms), the small town community is introduced, as well as the terrific cast of characters. We see little peeks at the relationship at the heart of In The Weeds, and the timeline makes a whole lot more sense. By the time I turned the first page of In The Weeds the second time around, I was already itching to read the love story – and it resonated with me in a completely different (MUCH better) way.

The story follows Beckett, a sweetheart of a farmer who always seems to put everyone else first. Beckett loves both his family and his community, and he shows that every single day through his actions. So when Evelyn comes back to town, it’s a reminder of the one weekend Beckett put himself first – a magical, steamy weekend with an enchanting stranger. A weekend he hasn’t forgotten in the months since. But Evelyn has already left without a word twice before, and Beckett has no interest in putting his heart on the line a third time. However, there’s something different this time; Evelyn is drifting, no longer content with her career, and in need of a little happy in her life. Somehow, Beckett finds himself offering to share his home with the woman who holds his heart in her hands, and they soon find themselves connecting on a level they haven’t in the past.

This is the kind of love story that requires some patience, but the incredibly romantic breadcrumbs along the way are wholly worth the effort. Sprinkled throughout the story are these little moments of intimacy and emotion, delving deeper every time. Slow burn goodness, despite the initial fire between these two. I grew to love Beckett in Lovelight Farms, and he really shines in this – I can’t remember a time when a gruff, tattooed farmer was ever so ADORABLE. Beckett stole my heart in a big way, and I loved that both characters worked on themselves as they slowly grew their emotional connection. It’s such a quiet and beautiful romance that it requires the reader’s full attention to appreciate all of the pieces, which is why reading the series in order is very helpful. It takes awhile for Beckett and Evelyn to figure out each other’s love languages, to trust in the connection, and to truly bond before giving in to the chemistry that sparks between them. They make each other better, and watching them find their happy was so fulfilling. And when they do finally give in to the spark? It was delicious. I loved it the whole way through.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3KsSYQi


HONORABLE MENTION

This is the kind of debut that gets me excited about what’s next from an author, because there was so much good stuff going on with the story. It’s ideal for fans of Elena Armas and Chloe Liese, sort of the perfect combo of both of their vibes – featuring a deliciously smitten hero, bickering that just might be bantering, and a strong focus on living with chronic illness (complete with OwnVoices rep). Sure, the heroine’s insecurities grated on my nerves and the miscommunication made me want to shake someone, but those smaller issues were greatly outweighed by the swoony love story at the heart of this. There are so many little tender moments that enriched it, and the history behind this relationship gave it so much extra weight. Plus, the hero is almost too good to be true – I loved him. It’s a well developed and one-of-a-kind love story that makes a phenomenal debut.

The story follows Evie, a woman who lives with endometriosis. It’s a chronic illness that impacts her daily life, and it also seems to be getting in the way of her dreams. Not only has Evie’s dream of opening a bakery been sidelined, but she also resists relationships – she doesn’t want to be a burden. So when the man who has driven her crazy since childhood shows up in her current hometown of Paris, it’s a shock to the system. Evie hasn’t seen Liam in years, but she hasn’t forgotten the way he’s broken her heart… or the way she still crushes on him. But the years seem to have changed Liam, and it’s not long before he’s assuming the role of her fake boyfriend. Pretending to be in love with the man you’ve been pretending NOT to be in love with for years is complicated, and that’s before you add Liam’s feelings into the equation.

If you loved the dynamic in The Spanish Love Deception or The Hating Game, then this should be right up your alley. Though the story is told exclusively from Evie’s POV, it’s easy to see that she might just be getting everything wrong. That’s also partially why the story is frustrating; not only is Evie dealing with a chronic illness that significantly impacts her every day, but she also refuses to see what is right in front of her. Her insecurities and self-doubt kinda drove me crazy after awhile, I will fully admit that. But Liam makes it SO easy to root for the relationship; he is such a dream guy, and I could feel how deeply he loved Evie. Evie’s health is front and center throughout the story, which might be tough for some readers, but it adds a layer of realness and depth that surely enhances the experience. The writing itself is a little rough (this is a debut, after all), but filled with so much potential that it was easy to overlook small things. Honestly, there’s a ton that I loved about this – which is why a 5-star rating was the obvious choice.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3f2cOWY


Once these two cross the line, they practically combust into flames – this is a smokin’ hot installment to the series, one that is full of electric chemistry from start to finish. I jumped back into the series just in time for the conclusion, which was both easy to read as a standalone and also the perfect closure for this family of billionaire doctors. This couple has quite the meet cute (at least this time around!), and I could immediately tell that I was going to be hooked on the dynamic. Having them not immediately remember each other from the past brought a little something extra to the story – they got to know each other as they are today before adding in the weight of their history. And that present day dynamic? Friction-filled and full of sexual tension, bursting at the seams with chemistry. It was easy to see why this couple’s history would change everything between them, and I couldn’t wait until it was finally all out in the open.

The story follows Kaplan, the last eligible bachelor in his family. He’s given up on love after one too many toxic interactions with gold diggers, so the last thing he’s looking for is a woman in his life. When a runaway bride stumbles into his path, Kaplan never expected her to change everything. Bianca is beautiful and newly jaded in love herself… and apparently his new employee. While Bianca was initially appreciative of Kaplan’s assistance, something seemed to change once they started working together. His attempts to keep her at a distance continue to backfire, because every time Bianca pulls away, Kaplan just wants to bring her closer. Little does he know that their connection runs deeper than anticipated, and Bianca isn’t so sure that she wants to clue Kaplan in.

I remember reading the blurb for the first time and having the sneaking suspicion that this was a secret baby romance or something… and I was less than enthused. So I was very excited when I discovered that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Kaplan and Bianca don’t have a romantic history at all, really, and that made it all the more interesting. I loved watching their relationship progress in present day, knowing that the other shoe would have to drop at some point. And boy does their relationship develop! Kaplan is unexpectedly intense and the spice was absolutely fan-worthy. Saman excels at writing steamy scenes, and this was super sexy. But it was easy to see that their feelings ran deeper than that, and the nuances of the relationship were the most engaging element. I’m very happy that I decided to finish out the series; there are a lot of similarities between the brothers, which naturally gets repetitive after awhile. This one felt fresh and different, and it has reminded me of all the reasons why I love Saman’s work. Few authors have delivered more 5-star reads for me, and this was undoubtedly another one.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3QE6PFt

———

It should be noted that there is some potentially triggering content that took me by surprise, including discussion of (past) suicide, a traumatic birth, a parent with cancer, and going bare without discussing BC or an ex’s recent cheating. None of which are main focuses of the story, making them more surprising when they popped up.


Lighthearted fun, this was just as bingeable as the first book in the series, with plenty of sparring that felt like sparks of attraction. It’s low angst and easygoing, featuring a theme park princess and her best friend’s brother – the one who infuriates her by existing. These two had great chemistry, and it was easy to see all of the ways they were perfect together. Plus, the hero is a cinnamon roll sweetheart, a giant teddy bear of a man who is irresistibly adorable. Pair that with a fun friend group and the perfect setting for this interconnected series of rom coms, and I had no trouble devouring it in one sitting. My only issues are very minor – it could’ve dug a little deeper – so I have no qualms about giving this an easy 5-star rating.

The story follows Quinn, a woman who spends her days playing a queen at a theme park. She’s gotten comfortable in the role, despite the fact that her real life disposition isn’t always sunny. Unfortunately, the bane of her existence – her best friend’s brother, Landon – started working as a security guard at the park recently. So when Landon accidentally crashes Quinn’s performance and the tourists mistake him for the queen’s beau, it complicates Quinn’s life. Landon’s appearance was so popular that the obvious next step is to make it a regular thing, but that means spending more time with the man who made Quinn’s high school life unbearable. But as the two spend more time putting on a show, Quinn realizes that she might’ve misjudged Landon… and that reality might be a little closer to the fiction they’ve been creating.

Easy to read as a standalone, but more fun if you’ve read the first book in the series, this was exactly what I was hoping for – a light, sexy rom com with just a hint of angst. In this case, Landon is the sunshine and Quinn is the grump, which made for a great dynamic. And I loved the history between them, which made the fast-moving (but slow burn) story work. It’s obvious that there are still messy feelings between them that have been lingering since their budding friendship in high school was quickly cut short, and I thought they made a good couple. Landon was super cute, and his determination to make things work was a win. I will say that this could’ve delved deeper into a few things, particularly Quinn’s battle with depression, but that might detract from the low angst, bingeable quality. I’ve got no complaints though; this was cute with a little bite of sizzle.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3DNz1Cu


Did you see my October Release Calendar?

It includes the October releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.


Check out this week’s new releases here.


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